Chevrolet’s three drivers all head to Shanghai in China this weekend still in contention for the World Touring Car Championship, with series leaders Yvan Muller and Rob Huff still equal on points.
Muller and Huff went into the previous round in Japan tied on points and the duo left Japan also tied on points, after two close races around the Suzuka east circuit. Swiss driver Menu actually closed the gap by 10 points at the previous event thanks to a pole position and win in the first race, and he is now 38 points behind his two team-mates, with 110 points still to play for.
In the event of a tie on points at the end of the final meeting in Macau, Frenchman Muller would take the title by virtue of having taken more wins during the season (currently 8 to 4 in favour of Muller).
The event next weekend in Shanghai will be the WTCC’s second visit to mainland China, with last year’s race taking place at the Shanghai Tianma Circuit following a late change from the Guangdong International Circuit.
However the WTCC will not utilise the full length of the circuit, as used by Formula 1 cars on their annual visit. Instead the drivers will use a 4.603 km version of the circuit which misses out turns 5 to 7. However they will still endure the notoriously long turns one and two, as well as the long 1.175 km back straight.
Reigning champion Muller expects that the Shanghai circuit will lend itself better to overtaking, after the previous event saw less on-track action than usual.
“On paper, Shanghai is bigger and faster than Suzuka, so overtaking should be much easier and this should give us some lively races,” said Muller. “I don’t know much about the Shanghai track and I have not done much research on the internet about it. Footage and data are one thing, but reality is different. Generally, when we go to a new circuit, I get there as early as possible so I have time to walk or cycle around the track to check every detail. That’s much more effective than simulations or watching TV footage.
Huff heads to Shanghai hoping to pass his team-mate on points and believes that qualifying will be crucial. The Brit has been outqualified by each of his team-mates at the last three events and as a result he has been unable to find a way past them in the all-important first race of the day.
“It’s great to go to Shanghai and have the privilege to race on the F1 track,” explained Huff. “I’m really anxious to get there. I think we’ll have closely-fought races as the track seems to allow for that. It will be important to qualify well and my first objective is to improve my grid position. My last three sessions did not go that well and I qualified third among the three Cruzes, so my first goal is to end up on the front row.
“With regards the races, it’s important to collect maximum points and get to Macau ahead. If that happens, I feel quite confident I can make it as Macau, a circuit where I won four times already, is very special for me.”
For Menu, his task in Shanghai is simple – to beat both of his team-mates. The four-time winner in 2012 has only an outside shot at the title, but he is refusing to give up yet.
“Like all WTCC drivers, I feel very excited to race on a new track, especially as Shanghai is one of the most modern F1 circuits,” said Menu. “It has a long straight and is a very fast track, so the Cruzes should be quite competitive there. On paper, it reminds me of Monza.
“I was very happy to reduce the points gap at Suzuka, and that’s exactly what I aim to do in China. I have no choice if I want to remain in contention for the title, I have to cut the gap by another 10 to 12 points. If so, I think I still have a chance in Macau, where traditionally anything can happen.”
Two additional Cruze’s will be present on the grid in Shanghai, with West Surrey Racing fielding a 1.6T for Colin Turkington under the Team Aviva-Cofco banner, and Eric Kwong Hoi Fung racing a 2.0 NA car for the Look Fong Racing Team. China Dragon Racing have also entered two older-specification Lacetti’s for Filipe Clemente de Souza and Ng Kin Veng, meaning the event is likely to feature the largest number of Chevrolet cars since the WTCC began in 2005.